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When I originally created the Rankify YouTube course, Conor AKA BestInSlot was awesome enough to let me test out a few theories for a case study, on some of his videos back in 2013. I’ve been lucky enough to sporadically keep contact with him since then, and I was very happy to get a positive answer back, when I contacted him about doing an interview about his channel. He’s also as bad at playing horror games as I am, so he gets bonus points in my book for that.
While he intiailly became a big hit due to his Skyrim series, Conor mostly uploads dinosaur related videos these days, catching people off guard with his calm, casual approach to gaming.
When Conor started his channel, which he runs solo by himself, he was a university student studying Biomedical Science, with no particular history in computer games, apart from playing them, back in September 2011. Conor says he started up his channel, mainly because he was bored with classes at the time. “Honestly? I hated my course at university! I was bored senseless” he says, adding he was inspired by Yogscast at the time.
“I was playing games anyway so I figured why not just record them at the same time?”
These days, his channel gets around 150.000 views a day, and while his demography changes with each video, he they are “on average late teens to early twenties and these days they tend to have some form of interest in dinosaurs and palaeontology which is sort of, my niche.”
But he laments that, as with many big channels, as his community grows, so do the troublemakers, but he still feels very positive about his many fans “Like all channels I guess I have some people prone to arguing or abusive behaviour but on the whole they’re a good bunch who get really excited about particular series”.
Conor found early success with his very popular Skyrim series, which he has released well over 200 different videos of. “I was extremely excited about Skyrim and by using a VPN set to Australia I managed to get hold of my copy earlier than pretty much anybody else who was actively uploading to Youtube at the time. I pushed out video after video after video, and jumped from under 100 subscribers to 3000 within a handful of weeks.”
When looking at his channel, many probably assume that his channel was a hit from the start, but that wasn’t really the case. Rather, several of his first videos did so poorly, he decided to delete them after getting bigger, “Most people think the first game I played was Skyrim, because once it took off I deleted about 4-5 series that I’d already done and I’ve gained the vast majority of subscribers since then. But I’d actually finished playthroughs of FEAR 3, Bastion, Warhammer 40k and Dead Island. They averaged something like 20 views per video.”
A lot has changed since then, however. “I used to be the only gaming channel that focused on dinosaurs, but that’s not really the case anymore. I’m not here to blow things up and have crap spinning all over my video… it’s just, enjoying the game, some British banter, nice and chill. I hope.”
In particular, his very calm style of videos is one of the key things that many notice first about him. That, and Conor being very British. “Well I think the first (edit: reaction) is probably “is he British?”! And after that, I think people react to my somewhat…calmer style. I’m not big on the excessive screaming and yelling that so many people seem to prefer, slightly more mature in style I’d hope is what they think.”
“The day you hit 100k is a pretty big moment and the little plaque still sits proudly on my TV stand in the middle of the room. But, moreso than that, I think realising this could (for now at least) be a job that could sustain me and allow me to live off it was a pretty big thing, much to the chagrin of most of my friends!”
When I asked Conor how the process for creating his videos is, it becomes clear that it varies. Some videos are quick, some take longer – but combined with his calm and more casual style of videos, it doesn’t appear to be the time-killer many might assume. “Depends how much editing I need to do but on a typical episode of let’s say Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis… an hour? If that.”
He says editing in particular, isn’t really what takes him a lot of time. “It’s 20-25 minutes of sitting down to record followed by throwing together a ‘On the previous episode’ segment in editing and chucking in some intro music. I’m not big on jump-cuts and the like. If it’s a multiplayer game or something that suits highlights more then a video can take a few hours but it’s really just dragging files about and cutting them at the right times.”
When it comes to software, he isn’t parcticularly fancy either, keeping up appearances of the laid back Brit’: “In terms of software I use PowerDirector for editing/processing (don’t recommend it… learn Vegas instead), Action! for recording and the Elgato software for capturing consoles and the iPad.” But if we dive over into the hardware part, as with most gamers, things start becoming a bit more hardcore.
“I’ve got a pretty stocked custom-water cooled PC with a completely unnecessary GTX Titan in it, a Yeti Blue microphone which is rigged up with a microphone stand/wire thing and a boom supressor, a Razr Blackwidow keyboard and mouse, and a really awful monitor that I desperately need to replace.”
Is there a video you are particularly proud of? “My channel trailer. I’m not a big editor, I don’t do many cuts or include a lot of music but I put a bit of effort in that and I still love it a year later.”
Of course, I wanted to know if Conor had any advice, when it came to starting up a new YouTube channel, with several years of experience on his back. “Be consistent, be yourself, find a niche. Consistency is massive particularly if you’re just going to be playing through a game, nobody wants to see part 1 of a story-based game and then not get to see part 2 for another week or something.”
Particularly being consistent, is one of the key areas to doing well, but also one of the harder ones, he adds. “It’s been 4 and a half years now and I’ve uploaded 10+ videos every single week for pretty much the entirety of that time… that’s an insane amount of hours put into speaking over random gameplay. There was a point back in the later Skyrim days where it was getting to me because the channel seemed to stall and I actually emailed my partner manager telling him I was closing down the channel. Thankfully I changed my mind.”, but with that said, he says even now it can still get to him, “I’m in a similar state right now where things aren’t going splendidly (in the past year I’ve had two months off, not through choice) and it’s tough to stay chipper and excited about work when it’s stalling.”
“Youtube is a horribly disgustingly horrendously crowded market these days. If anybody is looking to get into it, just, do it because you love it, not because you think you’ll get rich.”
“If you’re starting up you must think you have something to offer – so offer it”. later adding “I see far too many clones of Pewdiepie and the like… why would we need a clone when we have the original? You be you.” I think many of us can only nod in agreement with that statement, and more often than not, it feels like you’ve discovered some great hidden secret, when you find a YouTuber who isn’t just trying to copy someone else.
But it’s about more than that, it’s also about being realistic with expectations, he says – there’s literally millions of YouTube channels, but less than 10.000 of those ever reach 1 million subscribers. “Most of us won’t be million subscriber channels, hell the vast majority won’t hit 100k in their lifetime (them’s the breaks) but you do this because you love it and because it’s a great feeling having someone enjoy what you do.”
Focusing on his fascination with dinosaurs, Conor hopes to evolve his channel over the years into something more educnational, once he’s done with his second degree in Palaeontology. “The hope is to go a slightly more educational route, separate myself from the pack by providing a unique combination of gaming and education but we’ll see.”
But Conor says he also realizes, that if he wants to safeguard his future more, his content needs to move from being 100% on YouTube, to also being on platforms he can control more himself. “I honestly think this may be a downfall I need to correct – Youtube probably won’t last forever and a personal website that drives traffic with ads I 100% control would seem like a good idea.”
Further, he hopes to get a chance to get back into non-profit work, if he gets the chance, “I did a 24 hour gaming stream for Extra Life at one point, and I’d love to do it again this year.”
Finally, he adds that he himself isn’t sure, that this is what he wants to keep doing years down the road. “This isn’t really what I want to do for the rest of my life, but it’s a fun job that lets me travel, and if the channel even still exists and can pay for my livelihood in 5 years I’ll be pretty happy.”
A big thanks to Conor / BestInSlot for being up for letting us get some insight into his channel and history, and if you haven’t already, be sure to head over and subscribe to his channel!